Friday, November 27, 2015

Children's books are deceptive. A note from P.Kane

"Children's books are deceptive. People seem to think they are easily written, illustrated, and designed. I've never thought so. I liken children's books to abstract art. So many think that type of art can be easily executed by anyone, with no need of skill or imagination. Those who hold this stance have no notion of process and give little credit to how the brain works. The distillation of art or a story or message takes thought and skill.
A couple of years ago I read a review of a book titled "Dear Genius: the Letters of Ursula Nordstrom." Delightful book if you enjoy the art of letter writing. She was perhaps the most influential children's book editor of the 20th century. (Nordstrom spent her long career at Harper & Row, working her way up from editor's assistant.) Her letters provide a tour of the foundation of modern children's books. She knew everything and everyone. Most importantly, she recognized and cultivated talent. (Note the word "Genius.")
So much to discover in children's books, or storytelling. They are the lily pads in the pond from which we all hop. Maurice Sendak would say he didn't write children's books. He considered youth as drama, and children as the players who endured as much tragedy as joy. He never wrote down to them. Instead, he allowed childhood to elevate his talents. Sendak was discovered and mentored by Nordstrom.
As I mentioned to you previously, Rumplepimple reminds me of Jon Klassen's "I Want My Hat Back" because of the subtlety of the message. I don't appreciate hamfistedness or oppressively didactic storytelling. Typically, all charm has been removed.
Whenever I would mention my appreciation of "children's books" to a certain type of person, they would typically devalue them. But who are the authors of such books and stories? Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, James Thurber, Mark Twain, and Aldous Huxley, to name a few. No slouches there. And those are just the authors, with no mention of the fabulous illustrators and designers.
There's a wealth of humanity in "children's books." It's an Ali Baba's cave of delights and treasures. I'm so glad "Rumplepimple" has decided to join in." 


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your honest, positive comments about creating children's books and illustrations - so much work. Often all this is accepted without much thought given to the many long hours of blood, sweat and tears going along with the creation of such works. In the end, if one finds the right audience, of course, all of this will fade into the background - much like labour pains which are quickly forgotten once mother holds the newborn infant in her arms!